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2007: The Five Best Directorial Debuts

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By Nick Schager

IFC News

[Photo: “Persepolis,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2007]

Amidst all the new features from established auteurs, it would be easy to overlook the fact that 2007 was a banner year for debuts. In an effort to counteract any potential disregard, here are five films from six first-time helmers who, on the evidence of these maiden productions, will likely be heard from again very soon.


Directed by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel series “Persepolis” has been rightly acclaimed for its blend of humor, pathos, and social commentary, yet its stark black-and-white visual style hardly seemed a natural fit for the big-screen. Any concerns about lost-in-translation problems, however, disappeared from the opening frames of Satrapi’s animated gem (co-directed by Vincent Paronnaud), which bursts with vibrant, prickly, poignant life. Satrapi’s film isn’t just a faithful adaptation but an energized improvement of its source material, lending the author’s personal saga of oppression and exile an aesthetic fluidity and vitality that few animated efforts, of this year or any other, can match.

Away From Her

Directed by Sarah Polley

An adaptation of an Alice Munro short story about a long-married couple torn apart by Alzheimer’s, “Away From Her” would be a remarkable feature from a filmmaker of any age. The fact that it was authored by 28-year-old actress-turned-director Sarah Polley, though, makes its success that much more stunning. It’s a tale marked by a gentle touch and a humanistic interest in the frustration, pain, loneliness and resilient optimism that accompanies growing old. And its deeply felt sensitivity extends to the treatment of its magnificent leads Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie, whose performances are given room to breathe and blossom by Polley’s composed camerawork.

The Band’s Visit

Directed by Eran Kolirin

On its face, Eran Kolirin’s wry dramedy appears poised for typical culture-clash mushiness. What it ultimately delivers, however, is an affecting dose of subtle, heartfelt sweetness. An Egyptian police band’s accidental arrival in an isolated Israeli village is the premise for this sly investigation of communication barriers, with the unexpected meeting between Egyptians and Israelis standing as an obvious allegory for current Middle East relations. Yet the beauty of “The Band’s Visit” is that it never feels the need to overtly remark upon its larger concerns, or allow them to interfere with its moving portrait of lonely souls in desperate need of reciprocated kindness.

12:08 East of Bucharest

Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu

Corneliu Porumboiu’s “12:08 East of Bucharest” is more overtly comedic than last year’s heralded Romanian import “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu,” but that’s not to say it’s any less profound a work. Revolving around a TV talk show host’s attempt to produce a program about whether the 1989 revolution that expelled Ceausescu from power occurred in his rural town, the film commences with dry joviality and slowly develops into a piercing — and piercingly funny — meditation on the impossibility of establishing concrete truths. Its elegant bookending shots of streetlights going on and off (visual representations of spreading politicization) are textbook examples of understated symbolism done right.

King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Directed by Seth Gordon

This rollicking cinematic depiction of videogame culture came courtesy of documentarian Seth Gordon, who considers his chosen social environment with sincere thoughtfulness free of patronizing mockery. Gordon’s non-fiction crowd-pleaser thrives partly because of its thrilling underdog narrative involving the quest by family man Steve Wiebe to topple arcade game legend Billy Mitchell’s record Donkey Kong score. Brimming with good guys, bad guys and colorful peripheral figures, it’s a true-life tale fit for a Hollywood film. Ultimately, though, its resonance comes less from its twists and turns than from the director’s focus on the emotional and psychological forces compelling his subjects to compete.

[Additional photos: “Persepolis,” Sony Pictures Classics; “Away From Her,” Lionsgate; “The Band’s Visit,” Sony Pictures Classics; “12:08 East of Bucharest,” Tartan; “King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters,” Picturehouse]


Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…